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Taste of autumn
Considered to be one of the oldest surviving snacks in the world, the humble but delicious pretzel is thought to have originated in Europe, possibly created by monks in monasteries. Long associated with Germany, perhaps because of its beer-dunking potential, the pretzel was developed in southern France or northern Italy by a 7th-century monk who used leftover dough, folded as if in prayer, to reward children for good behavior.


  1. 1. Schwaz (Tyrol) City parish church Stained glass window (1510s) with coats of arms of the bakers Schwaz (Tyrol) City parish church
  2. 2. Ceramic figural pretzel flask Ceramic figural pretzel flask Foust pottery salted pretzel flask
  3. 3. Ceramic figural pretzel flask Alex Strachan - Clay Pretzel
  4. 4. Auntie Anne's ceramic pretzel Advertising sign restaurant
  5. 5. Sign in Stockholm Kringle is a Scandinavian pastry, a Nordic variety of pretzel
  6. 6. Glass Collection - Corning Museum of Glass New York (dedicated to the art, history and science of glass, it was founded in 1951 by Corning Glass Works and currently has a collection of more than 50,000 glass objects, some over 3,500 years old)
  7. 7. Glass Collection - Corning Museum of Glass New York
  8. 8. GlassCollection-CorningMuseumofGlassNewYork
  9. 9. German fairy tale forest Altenberg, Märchenwaldweg 15 in Altenberg, Odenthal
  10. 10. Hortus Deliciarum shows a pretzel at a banquet for the Persian King Ahasuerus and Queen Esther but several websites claim that the Vatican Library has a 5th century manuscript of Virgil with a pretzel illustration, Codex no. 3867, mentioned in several discussions of the history of the pretzel (brezel) One of the oldest depictions of pretzels in the Hortus Deliciarum of 1190 showing Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus sharing a meal. The king is pointing at the ale cans and dart board not shown in the detail
  11. 11. Pretzels have been around for almost 1,400 years. History has their origin about A.D. 610 when a baker in a monastery in southern France or northern Italy twisted leftover strips of bread dough into the shape of a person’s arms crossed in prayer, traditional posture for prayer in those days. Monks began offering the warm, doughy treats to children who had memorized their Bible verses and prayers. They were used to help children understand the Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The three empty holes in the pretzel represented the Christian Trinity. The monks called these treats pretiolas, Latin for little rewards Bread in the Middle Ages German monk showing his loaves Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg
  12. 12. The little knotted treat wandered around a while and became known in old high German as Brachiatellium, and then just plain Bretzel or Pretzel. Medieval people would ride out and greet vendors traveling to the various fairs and offer them pewter pitchers of wine and crisp dough impaled on spears called Geleit-pretzels. A Portable Oven Arte medieval The Last Supper, from a bishop’s benedictional made in Bavaria, Germany, ca. 1030–40 J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  13. 13. The Last Supper, from a Gospel Lectionary made in the Abbey of St. Peter in Salzburg, ca. 1150 Morgan Library, New York Martin Schaffner (German, 1478–1548), Last Supper, 1515 Augsburg, Staatsgalerie (Katharinenkirche)
  14. 14. FrescoattheChurchofSt.Valentine, Termeno,Italy,ca.1420–30SantaMariadellaNeve,Pisogne Metal engraving, Bavaria, 1460
  15. 15. Detail from The Battle between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Bruegel, 1559
  16. 16. Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Flemish, 1525 - 1569) The Battle between Carnival and Lent, 1559 Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
  17. 17. In all Catholic countries, the bread culture became highly developed because of meatless holidays, and since pretzels didn’t have any ingredients that were taboo during the pre-Easter season such as eggs, milk, butter or lard, the pretzel became a popular Lenten food throughout the Middle Ages. Plus, the white Brezl was popular for its keeping qualities. It was thick, satisfying and transported easily. The East Prussian Salzburger settlers kept the originally Catholic Brezl, but added yeast and raisins and let it rise on a metal tin, eating it on the day before the highest holiday of the Evangelist church, Karfreitag. The success of the pretiola spread to monasteries throughout the French and Italian wine regions and crossed over the Alps to Austria and Germany, where it became known as the bretzel, or pretzel
  18. 18. The pretzel became an important symbol in church life. A page from a prayer book of Catherine of Cleves depicts St. Bartholomew surrounded by pretzels, which were thought to bring good fortune, prosperity and spiritual wholeness to those who ate them St. Bartholomew, from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, Utrecht, The Netherlands, ca. 1440 Morgan Library, New York APortableOvenArtemedieval-Poland
  19. 19. Pretzels were a convenient way to give food to the poor and became typical alms for the hungry. Those who gave pretzels away were considered particularly blessed. They became such a sacred symbol that they were often packed into coffins King Frederick the Great, Frederick II buys bread and pretzel for the poor people 1568
  20. 20. A special recognition was given to the pretzel bakers in Europa. Legend has it, that in 1323, Emperor Ludwig of Bavaria awarded bakers an official coat of arms for their participation in the Battle of Mühldorf. At the center of their banner, the image of a pretzel. In 1348, the pretzel of their crest was overlaid with the Bohemian royal crown above it. For their services during the first Turkish siege of Vienna, in 1529, two lions on either side were added. As the story goes, during the siege, the Ottoman Turks dug a tunnel under the city wall at night. The pretzel bakers — who were awake and busy baking when the wall was breeched — are said to have heard the sound of digging first, and, when the Turks broke through, they fought “like lions.” For saving the city, they were awarded the two lions on their guild’s coat of arms. In 1690, in recognition of their services during the second Turkish siege, Emperor Leopold gave the bakers’ guild permission to arm the lions with swords. BrunnenstraßeinLeer(Ostfriesland)
  21. 21. Pretzels have long been integrated into the Christian faith. By the 16th century, it had become tradition to eat pretzels on Good Friday in Germany, and Catholics once considered them the “official food of lent.” Earlier laws of the Church stated that only one meal a day was to be eaten during lent and the food couldn’t come from an animal. Yet another origin story says that pretzels were developed as a food for lent. Whether or not this is true, pretzels did become a popular staple during the holiday because it was easy to make and fulfilled the Church’s guidelines Jacob Fobsen Van Es (1596-1666) Déjeuner de poissons - Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy
  22. 22. The pretzel has been in use as an emblem of bakers and formerly their guilds in Europe since at least the 12th century Pretzels in the cobbles of Freiburg's Old Town Bakers' Guild Windows (Münster Freiburg)
  23. 23. Bakers' Guild Windows (Münster Freiburg)
  24. 24. Mosaics in Freiburg representing the baker’s guild
  25. 25. 15thcenturyGothicDinkelsbuhlcathedral Corporation of bakers, Austria Seal dating from the end of the 16th century
  26. 26. Bakers window from the Munich CathedralPrague, Czech Republic
  27. 27. The golden pretzel in the Munich Frauenkirche, Germany
  28. 28. The golden pretzel in the Munich Frauenkirche The many of the baker's guilds adopted the pretzel for a symbol
  29. 29. Bear with bretzel, insigne from gingerbread bakers in Middle age. Associated with the bear (which eats honey, an ingredient in gingerbread), the pretzel becomes the emblem of the corporation of gingerbread Pragueoldtown
  30. 30. Karlsruhe-Durlach, Germany Alsacebakerscorporation
  31. 31. Brownhills Town Entrance sculpture by John McKenna The Staffordshire knot is the traditional symbol of the English county of Staffordshire Staffordshire
  32. 32. AbrahamBloemaert(1564-1651)Twoboyssingingfromsheetofpaper FortunatBergant(1721–1769)Prestar TheNationalGalleryofSlovenia
  33. 33. The pretzel has maybe its origins as an official food of Lent. However, much of the information available is based on tradition that has been handed down through the ages.
  34. 34. Flegel-StilllifewithPretzels,NutsandAlmonds LuisMelendez(Spanish,1716-1780) StillLifewithBoxofJelly,Bread,SalverwithGlassandCooler.Prado
  35. 35. Luis Melendez (Spanish, 1716 - 1780) Still Life with Plums, Figs and Bread Prado Museum
  36. 36. Nicolaes Gillis (1595–1632) A laid table
  37. 37. Clara Peeters (Dutch, 1594 - 1658) Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels, 1685 Mauritshuis
  38. 38. Clara Peeters (Dutch, 1594 - 1658) Still life with cheese, bread and pretzels
  39. 39. Still life painter Clara Peeters loved to insert small self-portraits on shiny surfaces her paintings. In this 1611 painting she went a bit overboard: there are at least 6 reflections of her in the goblet in the center of the painting and several more in the pewter tankard Clara Peeters (Dutch, 1594 - 1658) Still Life with Nuts, Candy and Flowers, 1611, (Prado Museum)
  40. 40. Clara Peeters (Dutch, 1594 - 1658) Still Life with Nuts, Candy and Flowers, 1611, (Prado Museum)
  41. 41. Clara Peeters (Dutch, 1594 - 1658) Still Life, 1607
  42. 42. Jan van Bijler (Dutch, 1597 – 1671) Pulling of the Pretzel Centraal Museum Utrecht Emblem Denmark
  43. 43. Den Gamle By in Aarhus is a large open-air museum of urban history and culture in Denmark and with Living history. Many of the buildings have exhibitions in keeping with the period while the bakery still sells very tasty treats using recipes from before 1880
  44. 44. The French Pastry School Alsace the Bretzel d'Or, or Golden Pretzel an award which is bestowed every two years: the institute recognizes talented Alsatians who preserve the arts and traditions of Alsace Colouredetchingcirca1830, BavarianNationalMuseum,Munich Colmar Skansen Museum - SwedenPatron
  45. 45. Emblem Eguisheim, France Görlitz, Germany Denmark Hoard Jewels - at least the sixth century
  46. 46. Sophia Loren Pretzel shaped door handles inspired by the Danish Baker's Guild Logo
  47. 47. Les Femmes sandwich women in the 1890s carrying all kinds of advertisements EmblemEnseignebretzel-Eguisheim-Routedesvinsd'Alsace
  48. 48. Peter Fendi (Austrian, 1796 - 1842) The Freezing Pretzel Boy in front of the Dominikanerbastei Vienna Museum Franz Gerasch - Pretzel seller in Vienna, watercolor, Austria, 1846
  49. 49. Text and pictures: Internet All copyrights belong to their respective owners Presentation: Sanda Foişoreanu Sound: Coldplay - Viva La Vida 2020

Editor's Notes

  • In 1510, the Ottoman Turks want to invade Vienna by tunneling under the city walls. Pretzel bakers, working through the night, heard the strange noises in the cellars, grabbed every available weapon and killed the Turks. The city was saved and the grateful emperor awarded the pretzel bakers an honorary coat of arms. It is said that they fought like lions, which is why they have had two erect lions in their coat of arms. In 1690 Emperor Leopold gave the bakers permission to use swords in the coat of arms in addition to the lions, in gratitude and in recognition of their services during the second Turkish siege
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